Response to parliamentary question on types of support provided to our national athletes for their mental health and well-being
1. The Government is committed to supporting our Team Singapore athletes throughout their sporting journey. A lot is asked of our athletes, from pushing the boundaries of what they can achieve in their sport, to bringing sporting glory to Singapore, and becoming role models for others to follow.
2. The Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) and the National Youth Sports Institute (NYSI) take a holistic approach to preparing our athletes to excel in a high-performance setting, and this includes support for their overall psychological and mental well-being. By doing so, our athletes are equipped with the skills and mental resilience to deal with the demands they face. Let me share some ways in how we do this.
3. First, ahead of major competitions, SSI and NYSI assign dedicated teams of sport psychologists and Athlete Life personnel to provide support for the psychological and mental well-being of our national athletes. This includes one-on-one consults and imparting skills and knowledge to cope with mental and emotional issues, also known as psycho-education.
a. For this year’s Major Games, namely the Southeast Asian (SEA), Commonwealth & ASEAN Para Games, SSI piloted a Fitness and Freshness Survey to measure and monitor athletes’ injuries, physiological and psychological health before the Games, and identify areas for closer monitoring and support.
4. Second, beyond competitions, SSI also proactively monitors our athletes’ mental health. A well-being survey was added to its Sport Excellence (spex) programme’s regular medical check-up in 2020 to screen for possible psychological and mental distress, including eating and sleeping disorders. Cases requiring attention are flagged and assessed by SSI’s sport science team. If clinical expertise is required, they will be referred to the Singapore Sport and Exercise Medicine Centre (SSMC@CGH) for follow-up with a trained psychiatrist or clinical psychologist.
5. Third, SSI works with coaches and other touchpoints who influence or interact with the athletes.
a. SSI and NYSI partner the NSAs to strengthen our athletes’ mental resilience, by equipping them with the necessary knowledge to recognise symptoms of poor mental health, turn to appropriate coping mechanisms, and practise self-care.
b. SSI runs a mental health literacy programme to empower coaches and other athlete support personnel to identify and support athletes who need help with their mental wellbeing. This programme has seen healthy take-up.
c. All NYSI staff will be completing a Psychological First Aid course this month and this further expands the touchpoints who can help detect issues early for intervention.
6. Fourth, we will continue to raise awareness on the importance of mental well-being. For example, SSI and NYSI intend to launch a series of infographics on mental health for athletes on World Mental Health Day in October to make the information more accessible and easily understood.
7. Finally, beyond these efforts, knowing that they have the support of Singaporeans greatly boosts our athletes’ mental well-being. I hope that Singaporeans will continue to cheer our athletes on and express support for them, through the ups and downs of their sporting journeys, as they continue to do their best for the nation.